The Video Vacuum (thevideovacuum) wrote,
The Video Vacuum
thevideovacuum

TORTURE GARDEN (1968) **

Amicus Films' Dr. Terror's House of Horrors was such a big success that they followed up it up with another horror anthology.  This one centers around a carnival barker named Dr. Diablo (Burgess Meredith) who invites four curious strangers to have their fortunes told; all of whom meet grim ends.  The first story Enoch (** 1/2) centers around a would-be murderer who is stalked by a vengeful cat that drives him to chop people's heads off.  This story has the benefit of a really cool idea, except it's nowhere near as explicit and gory as it should've been.  Terror Over Hollywood (**) is about an aspiring actress who falls in love with a seemingly ageless matinee idol.  As it turns out, he's a robot duplicate made to ensure continued box office success.  This one is a little on the hokey side and the story's sci-fi bent doesn't really jibe with the rest of the tales.  Mr. Steinway (* 1/2) comes next and is about a concert pianist who falls in love with a reporter.  Unfortunately for him, his piano gets hella jealous and murders his beloved.  Yes, you heard me correctly folks; a killer piano.  A KILLER FUCKING PIANO!  I've seen some stupid shit in my time but this hunk of insanity takes the fucking taco.  The Man Who Collected Poe (***) rounds out the tales, and they saved the best for last.  Jack Palance stars as an obsessive Edgar Allan Poe collector who wants to get his hands on an unpublished Poe work.  It sucks for him because the rightful owner, Peter Cushing won't give it up, so Jack's got to kill him.  But he learns too late that old Pete collects Poe LITERALLY.

 

All of the tales were penned by Robert Bloch, the man who wrote Psycho.  You'd think the guy who came up with that brilliant shit could concoct some better stories than this (A FUCKING KILLER PIANO!?!), but I guess not.  Only the final story really delivers a good twist ending, which is crucial in order for these anthologies to work.  Also, the blood and gore is left to a minimum (nice pitchfork death and headless bodies in the first story though), which is a little disheartening.  (Not to mention the fact that there is no torture and very little gardening.)

 

The Man Who Collected Poe almost singlehandedly saves this mishmash.  Almost.  Palance and Cushing are excellent together and have a great repartee with one another, making you wish they made more movies together.  If the other stories had featured actors half this good, Torture Garden might've been worthwhile.  At least we get to see Burgess Meredith hamming it up nicely during the wraparound segments though.  Burgess also gets the best line when he encourages people to "Look deeply into the Shears of Fate!"

 

Bloch later wrote the infinitely better The House That Dripped Blood for Amicus two years later.

Tags: anthology, horror, peter cushing, t
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